|Skokie River at Sunset at the Chicago Botanic Gardens|
But mid to late summer would be my favorite time to visit- July, August, September. The gardens are in full bloom, the lily pad pools are filled with gorgeous tropical waterlilies, butterflies and other insects make for a macro shooting haven, tired parent birds are seen being mobbed by their hungry fledglings, and hummingbirds dash and chase each other in fights over feeding grounds.
|A Song Sparrow Sings in Dixon Prairie in July|
The water lily pools in the Heritage Garden are great for getting amazing shots of waterlilies. To me, they often seem to look like they're lit from within.
|Red Flare Night-blooming Waterlily|
|"Well, helllooo there, ladies!"|
|A female House Sparrow looks at her reflection|
|A Goldfinch takes a Bath|
|A soggy male House Sparrow|
The lake also has some great spots where waterlilies and lotus grow. I especially tend to like the large stretches of lotus growing by the shorelines.
Hummingbirds become most active in August and September as they finish their breeding season and gear up for a long migration south. Territorial, you'll often see them chasing each other off as they try to guard "their" nectar patch.
The best place to look for hummingbirds is the English Oak Meadow, which in late summer is filled with zinnias, russian sage, and anise scented sage.
|A female on guard for interlopers as she rests in a tree|
|Anise-scented Sage is a favorite nectar source|
|Oh dear, hope it isn't stuck|
|A dance with a Zinnia|
If the English Oak Meadow doesn't turn up any hummingbirds, head over the evaluation gardens. Currently there's an ongoing evaluation study on Butterfly Bushes, which draws the hummers. Additionally, there was a large strand of Cardinal Flowers this year that drew hummingbirds like a magnet.
|A hummingbird feeds on a butterfly bush|
|A hummingbird feeding on cardinal flower|
The butterfly bushes have another nice draw-- butterflies!
|A hungry Monarch feeding on a butterfly bush|
The butterfly this summer had been spectacular. The tally this year includes Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Question Marks, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Mourning Cloaks, Red Spotted Purples, Viceroys, little Blues, and Skippers
|Another Tiger Swallowtail|
|A slightly tattered Red Spotted Purple|
|A Mourning Cloak|
|Female Tiger Swallowtail|
A large amount of insects make for good macro shooting. Bees, wasps, ants, dragonflies, moths, spiders, beetles... keep your eyes open and you'll see them.
|Orb Weaver Spider|
|A Hungry Bumblebee|
|A Webworm Moth|
Goldfinches are out in force, feeding on coneflower and sunflower seeds. It's not uncommon to see a parent being mobbed by its nearly grown offspring, likely the last brood of the year.
|A male Goldfinch on Coneflower|
|Daddy Goldfinch gathering seeds for his hungry fledglings|
It's also a good time of the year to spot Cardinals and their fledglings.
|Daddy Cardinal feeding his fledgling|
I'd recommend the Chicago Botanic Gardens to anyone. Entrance is free, though it's going to cost you $20 to park if your not a member. If you think you might go often, the membership is worth it just to get the free parking.
It's a very nice place to spend the day with your camera, grab lunch (the cafe is very very good), and generally have a good time in a beautiful setting.